Congratulations to Mike Mussina on his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. An absolutely amazing story of a small town All-American boy that navigated the baseball gauntlet all the way to Cooperstown. From Johnny Z’s and Montoursville Little League to a State Championship while playing for Manager Carter Giles and his hometown Warriors. That would have been a great story; however, that was only the beginning chapters.
Up next was a trip to the west coast and Stanford University. One of the top Division I academic and baseball schools in the Country. Mike just kept outworking everyone and honing his God-given talent. A National Championship, a dual major, a brilliant college career rolled into three years that led to the next chapter in his journey.
Montoursville’s very own Mike Mussina becomes a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. Mike was actually drafted twice by the Orioles, first right out of high school, which he turned down to attend Stanford.
Mike began his professional career close to home with the Hagerstown Suns. Again like college, he liked getting things done in short order. It only took Mike about a year to climb the ladder and make his professional debut with the Baltimore Orioles.
This was an absolutely fantastic story at the time. Mike not only had everyone from Montoursville, but everyone in central Pennsylvania following and supporting his efforts. It was the perfect local-boy-makes-good story as it was playing out on a national stage.
Out of all sports, baseball — our National Pastime — seems to have the deepest family roots. Especially between fathers and sons. This was definitely the case with Malcolm and Mike. It was this story of family, baseball, and his love of where he called home that endeared him to so many.
Fathers and sons of all ages loved watching and discussing Mike’s efforts. This was the case with me and my Father. Dad loved watching Mike pitch from his days at Stanford right on through his Major League career. My Father was a baseball guy; he knew the game inside and out. He would always comment about Mike’s outstanding mechanics as a pitcher, but what impressed my Father most was his mental approach. Not just his thinking and executing his game plan, but the fact that no matter what happened, Mike never got rattled, and the expression on his face hardly ever changed.
My Dad was visibly upset for Mike when Carl Everett of the Red Sox broke up his perfect game in the 9th at Fenway. I remember his exact words as the ball left the bat. “Oh sh*t,” as he slammed the flipper down and turned off the game. The flipper is what we called the TV remote.
It also didn’t hurt Mike’s popularity that he was just flat-out outstanding on the mound. From that first start in Baltimore, all the way to his last start for the New York Yankees that finished off his first 20 win season. Baseball fans followed the Orioles and Yankee schedule and pitching rotation like it was the weather forecast hoping to tune in on TV and watch him work.
My Dad predicted, maybe five years into Mike’s career, that if he stayed healthy, he would have a shot at being our area’s first Hall of Fame baseball player. He was concerned about the number of wins Oriole closer Jose Mesa, and other O’s relief pitchers cost Mike. He would say, “Three or four blown saves a year equals 30 or 40 wins over a career.” Thank goodness this did not come back to haunt Mike. Dad was right on it, though. Those lost wins would have put him at the magical 300 total that guaranteed Cooperstown.
Back to that special family bond created by baseball. I would be remiss without mentioning Mike’s brother Mark. As a father of two sons, nothing makes me more proud than the relationship Jimmy and Hunter have. It’s what you hope for the day your second son is born.
The way that Mark has followed, supported, joked around with, and provided that special brotherly love could be a story in itself. It has been amazing to watch. When Mark takes the time to write an article about his brother, it is a must-read. Tip of my cap with no logo on it to brother Mark.
We will have a Webb Weekly tribute to Mike and his induction into the Hall of Fame in our August 14th edition, just before the start of the Little League World Series. That just seemed like a perfect fit. Again a Webb Weekly tip of the cap to Mike Mussina and his family. I’ll have to see if he can get me one of those National Baseball Hall of Fame hats. Remember a billed hat is a man’s jewelry.
God Bless America.